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Great stuff from Jeremy Messersmith at Sundance, and on new album

February 17th, 2014 Posted in Arts and Life

By Paul Christiansen

PARK CITY, Utah — Since indie-rock darling Jeremy Messersmith announced in March he’d be releasing his fourth full-length album “Heart Murmurs,” his major label debut, on Glassnote Records, critics and fans have speculated he’d have to adapt his quirky sound into something a bit more mainstream.

Jeremy Messersmith, “It’s only dancing.”

Jeremy Messersmith, “It’s only dancing.”

Those suspicions seemed confirmed earlier this month with the release of the album’s single “Ghost,” a dark and somber sing-along tune complete with a drum-and-strum chorus, acoustic guitars and alternating kick drum and tambourine — a perfect homage to labelmates Mumford & Sons.

Whatever fans’ feelings may be toward the banjo-toting Brits in M&S, Messersmith’s “Heart Murmurs,” set for February release, will not be reminiscent of that kind of music. Messersmith and his band took the stage at the Sundance Film Festival’s ASCAP Music Café to give Utahns and festival patrons a first listen to his new material. “We’re basically going to play through the record tracks because I was too lazy to make a set list,” Messersmith told the crowd, failing to hold a straight face. “But I assure you we are paid professionals.”

The band launched into first song, “It’s Only Dancing,” without hesitation, an upbeat anthem about secret and forbidden love between friends. The song’s crunchy guitars, bass runs and pounding drums suggest a tip of the hat to mid-’80s acts like The Outfield and Huey Lewis and the News. From the time the first power chord was strummed the crowd was hooked.

Messersmith and company kept the energy up by next performing the radio-friendly single “Tourniquet.” Because the tune has been circulating around internet radio stations like Spotify and Pandora  since its release in October, many members of the audience didn’t hesitate to sing along with the chorus: “No, I won’t let you slip/I’ll be your tourniquet/No I won’t ever quit/I’ll be your tourniquet.”

“I’ve made what to me is a record of love songs,” said Messersmith, adding a disclaimer that some of the label executives who have listened to the record “think it has its dark moments.”

This short statement was the perfect segue into the next song. The piano-heavy “Bridges” holds the story of a love doomed from the start and the confession of a lover who wants to end the relationship before things get too painful. “I’m gonna hurt you, make you cry/Only thing I need is time/I’m gonna hurt you, bleed you dry,” crooned Messersmith, sounding like a post-Beatles Paul McCartney, delivered a beautiful take on the old breakup cliché “It’s not you, it’s me.”

While Messersmith has matured on this new record — his previous attempts involved wonderfully eccentric songs about his dream to live on Tatooine, the desert planet from the “Star Wars” films, and other tunes that pay tribute to life in the suburbs — and in his live performances, he still holds true to his peculiar and unique way of looking at things.

On fingerpicked acoustic ballad, “I Want To Be Your One Night Stand,” the songwriter started a tale about what sounded like a forbidden tryst, but by the end of the song Messersmith revealed the story of a middle-age couple who have lost sight of the excitement their relationship once held. The lovers decided to put their wedding bands away for one night, leave their children with a babysitter and check into a dive motel to rekindle some spontaneity.

The individual stories and situations brought to light in Messersmith’s new batch of songs are relatable on many different levels and to many different types of listeners. By moving to Glassnote with this record, Messersmith has ensured he’ll be a well-known artist by this time next year with fans, both old and young, singing along to every word. And who doesn’t love something — or, even better, someone — they can sing along with?


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